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Tyrese Hunter’s heroics help No. 11-seed Iowa State defy odds in first round of March Madness
Tyrese Hunter stands out in return to home state
MILWAUKEE — Iowa State, picked dead-last in the Big 12 men’s basketball preseason poll, keeps on beating the odds in 2021-22.
This time, it happened on a national stage.
The No. 11-seed Cyclones upset No. 6-seed LSU in a 59-54 win despite being four-point underdogs.
Iowa State appeared to have the game locked up with a 50-39 lead, but LSU responded with a 11-1 run and cut the Cyclones’ lead to just one point.
Then freshman guard Tyrese Hunter, playing a short drive away from his hometown of Racine, Wis., hit two crucial 3-pointers, both from well beyond the 3-point-line, to secure the victory.
“We wanted the ball in his hands late,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “He stepped up and made shots — big shots.”
The first one came with just under two minutes to go, giving the Cyclones some much-needed breathing room. Then with 19 seconds to go, he delivered the dagger.
“He's put a lot into that shot, and for it to show up tonight on the big stage at home for him is really special,” Otzelberger said.
Even before the late heroics, Hunter had quite the performance in his return to southeastern Wisconsin. He finished with 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting, including seven 3-pointers.
"I got the shots presented to me, and I just let them fly,” Hunter said.
As he hit many of his 3s, he turned around to see his grandma in the Fiserv Forum seating bowl.
Hunter’s perimeter success came against a team that came into Friday’s game allowing opponents to hit just 28 percent of 3s — the best rate among teams in major conferences.
“If you asked me before the game if that's a shot we want down the stretch — making a contested shot over a 6-8 kid — I would say we’ll take that,” LSU interim head coach Kevin Nickelberry said. “But he made them. Hats off to him.”
As expected for teams with two of the most efficient defenses in the country, Friday’s game saw limited offense from both sides.
The Cyclones had multiple stretches with eight consecutive missed shots.
But Iowa State’s defense was more effective at taming the Tigers’ offense. LSU shot just 37 percent from the field and 21 percent from deep. The Tigers’ 19 turnovers translated into 22 Iowa State points.
“Our defensive effort was terrific,” Otzelberger said. “We turned them over. We scored off turnovers. We knew that was going to be important for us to be successful. … Our ball toughness was off the charts.”
Iowa State senior Izaiah Brockington had 19 points on 6-for-16 shooting. Aside from Hunter and Brockington, no other Cyclone had more than eight points.
The win came with a significantly different lineup from Otzelberger’s usual starting five. Forwards Robert Jones and Tristan Enaruna started in place of Alijaz Kunc and George Conditt IV.
Kunc and Conditt both earned early minutes despite not getting the starting nod.
Friday marked the Cyclones’ first NCAA Tournament win since 2017, when they were also playing in Milwaukee.
“All the credit goes to the young men in our program for how they bought into the work habits,” Otzelberger said. “We put a pretty demanding schedule in front of them — on what we do every single day, what we demand in the classroom, how we demand that they go about doing everything — and they've embraced that.”
Iowa State will play the winner of No. 3-seed Wisconsin and No. 14-seed Colgate Sunday.
If the winner is the Badgers, who are heavily favored to advance to the second round, Wisconsin will essentially have a home-court advantage.
The Badgers are playing about 80 miles away from their campus, and much of the Fiserv Forum crowd was decked out in Badger red Friday.
Iowa State surely wouldn’t be the favorite in that matchup, but that’s nothing new this season.
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